The Inspector General of Police, Usman Baba, said, on Thursday, that testing of suspects for COVID-19 in police detention has helped to reduce congestion at correctional centres.
Mr Baba, who was represented by the Lagos police commissioner, Hakeem Odumosu, said this during a conference on decongestion of Nigerian correctional centres held in Victoria Island, Lagos.
He said suspects who test positive for COVID-19 are being “treated by the police”, rather than being taken to court, which reduces the number of inmates in correctional centres.
“The Nigeria Police taking over the burden of carrying out COVID-19 tests on suspects in police custody before being taken to courts and Correctional Centres has assisted greatly in reducing congestion of inmates in the correctional centres facilities, as many of them who tested positive are being treated by the police.
“This window of treatment period often provides opportunities for those already sent for trials and granted bail but cannot meet their bail condition to meet their conditions, released on bail by court. This ultimately reduces the number of those being taken to Correctional Centres facilities,” Mr Odumosu said.
Although he did not say how many police commands and formations in Nigeria conduct COVID-19 tests for suspects, the police boss said the initiative has yielded results.
Mr Odumosu in his address said the police force has identified causes of prolonged trials and congestion of correctional facilities on the part of the police, and is taking steps to curb them.
He said one of such steps is to ensure that the police do not criminalise minor offences, which will eliminate the time being wasted on such cases.
“The Inspector General of Police has directed all police formations to ensure that the Criminal Justice System is not further over-laboured with minor cases by granting administrative bails. This is aimed at reducing the number of inmates in the correctional centres,” he said.
Mr Odumosu said another problem that has been identified is the inconsistence in the appearance of police officers who are to give evidence at trials.
“In order to address this, the Inspector General of Police has mandated that officers must attend court sessions as at when due, to give evidence. Disciplinary actions are being taken against Officers who contravene these directives. This has increased the appearances of police officers in court, thereby enhancing speedy criminal trials and by extension, decongestion of correctional centres facilities,” Mr Odumosu said.
He added that to enhance speedy trial, the police have adopted the use of technology at interrogation rooms as well as modern facilities to obtain statements. Mr Odumosu said this will assist in gathering incontrovertible evidence to facilitate quick dispensation of justice thereby reducing the period of awaiting trials.
“The Police has also adopted the strategy of keeping tabs on witnesses, particularly the prosecution witness, in order to compel their appearances to give evidence at trials. This is with the view to ensuring that unnecessary delay at trials due to non-appearance of witnesses are curbed, thereby enhancing quick dispensation of justice and ultimately decongestion of correctional centres,” Mr Odumosu added.
The Lagos police boss added that the IGP, Mr Usman, seeks to establish a pool of police prosecutors, who are well-trained, as this will increase professional and more speedy representation of the police at trials, and remove delays.
Other approaches being taken by the police to decongest correctional facilities are scientific documentation and technological exhibits keeping; out of court settlement and peaceful resolution of conflict or crisis, known as Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) mechanism; professional procedure of investigation of criminal cases; diligent prosecution; and the adoption of community policing strategy to minimise crime in its entirety.
He added that the police authority is addressing alleged prolonged trials arising from poor investigation by the police, adding that many underlying factors create bottlenecks for speedy dispensation of justice, but the police will continue to do its best.
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